Musings of a Dinosaur

A Family Doctor in solo private practice; I may be going the way of the dinosaur, but I'm not dead yet.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

God Bless You, Kurt Vonnegut

I've just finished reading the latest book by one of my all-time favorite authors: A Man Without a Country, by Kurt Vonnegut.

Not that it's much of a book. More like a cross between a collection of essays and the ranting of an angry old man. It's only 145 pages, with wide margins and lots of space between lines. And pictures; entire pages with handwritten quotes; some graphs. All the strategies I'd use if I wanted to publish a book but didn't have quite enough material to make it look like a legitimate book.

That said, it's wonderful! It's pithy; it's too the point; it's funny as hell. In a word -- vintage Vonnegut. This from someone who's read almost everything he's ever written, from Slaughterhouse Five as a kid at camp, through the short story collection Welcome to the Monkey House, all the way up to Time Quake a few years ago. If Vonnegut were to die tomorrow, which he claims to wish he would:
I am going to sue the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company, manufacturers of Pall Mall cigarettes, for a billion bucks! Starting when I was only twelve years old, I have never chain-smoked anything but unfiltered Pall Malls. And for many years now, right on the package, Brown and Williamson have promised to kill me.

But I am now eighty-two. Thanks a lot, you dirty rats. The last thing I ever wanted was to be alive when the three most powerful people on the whole planet would be named Bush, Dick and Colon.
this book would make a most satisfactory obituary.

The main thing about Vonnegut as a writer, though, is that once I read him I realize that he has already said what needs to be said so thoroughly and so elegantly that there's really nothing else to say. Least of all by little old moi. Regarding the Dark Ages into which I see this country slipping so inexorably, as I try to rant and rave and explain, Vonnegut says this:
In case you haven't noticed, as the result of a shamelessly rigged election in Florida, in which thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily disenfranchised, we now present ourselves to the rest of the world as proud, grinning, jut-jawed, pitiless war-lovers with appallingly powerful weaponry -- who stand unopposed.

In case you haven't noticed, we are now as feared and hated all over the world as the Nazis once were.

And with good reason.

In case you haven't noticed, our unelected leaders have dehumanized millions and millions of human beings simply because of their religion and race. We wound 'em and kill 'em and torture 'em and imprison 'em all we want.

Piece of cake.

In case you haven't noticed,we also dehumanized our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because of their low social class.

Send 'em anywhere. Make 'em do anything.

Piece of cake.

The O'Reilly Factor.

So I am a man without a country, except for the librarians and a Chicago paper called In These Times.
And he goes on:
My last words? "Life is no way to treat an animal, not even a mouse.

Napalm came from Harvard. Veritas!

Our president is a Christian? So was Adolf Hitler.

What can be said to our young people, now that psychopathic personalities, which is to say persons without consciences, without senses of pity or shame, have taken all the money in the treasuries of our government and corporations, and made it all their own?
What else is there to say? Except of course, God Bless you, Kurt Vonnegut!


At Tue Mar 20, 09:01:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's strong stuff! Hurray for you for posting it! And hurray for the mayor of Salt Lake City for calling for impeachment of Bush. Too bad the damage has already been done.

By the way, I miss our previous Family Dinosaur doc. In solo practice he always saw us quickly, and if we had to wait for ten minutes he apologized politely. Now we wait for an hour and a half with no apology in a large group practice.

At Tue Mar 20, 08:24:00 PM, Blogger Sid Schwab said...

Uh, oh. Now you're asking for it. From me, you get this: huzzah! It is truly beyond understanding that anyone -- left or right -- could still argue that Bush's repsonse to terrorism, other than the intial response in Afganistan, has done anything but make things worse. From any way you look at it. Haven't read Kurt's latest. Now I will.

At Wed Mar 21, 03:32:00 AM, Blogger Felix Kasza said...

I do so respect consistency in a man. Vonnegut is a gifted writer, from the first word he ever wrote to his latest.

He is also consistently wrong; had he been active two decades earlier, why, he might have taken the Times's Pulitzer -- the one awarded for whitewashing Uncle Stalin.

A superb author. When will he apply his mind, his sharp eye, to the world he lives in -- instead of the one he imagines?


At Wed Mar 21, 09:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hitler a christian? I love Vonnegut, but that statement show that he doesn't know Hitler.

At Mon Apr 09, 11:13:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vonnegut rocks!

At Fri Apr 13, 09:02:00 PM, Blogger Tricia said...

A prophetic post.


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